The Runaround

Poker is one of the fastest growing fads in our nation.

There’s only one problem: It’s not a sport.

For as popular as poker is, and despite the fact that it boasts great competition, there are still a few criteria that poker fails to reach in order to be listed as a sport.

First of all, it cannot be a sport because it involves sitting around a table, not really doing anything. This rule also would exclude such wannabe sports as spades, chess, knitting and gossiping.

Second, poker cannot be a sport because you can play it on the computer. This demand strikes particularly close to home for me because it ends all dreams I ever had of being a professional Minesweeper athlete.

Another reason poker cannot be a sport is because it is aired on Bravo, the Travel Channel and E!. I guarantee that you will never see pro football followed by "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Next, poker cannot be a sport because it is a sin. The game itself promotes gambling and bluffing, which the Bible is strictly against. "Thou shalt not wager large amounts of money lest you be eaten by the fiery serpent. Same goes for lying." That was a paraphrase, and I’m not sure exactly where it’s found in Scripture.

On top of all these reasons, poker also requires no athletic ability, has no play clock, prominently features cocktail waitresses, takes place in casinos, and much too often ends with the winner spending half of his winnings at the bar.

Poker, in its truest form, should be considered nothing more than a game, but I understand why people fantasize about its sports credibility. They want to justify their sitting around playing cards as socially accepted physical activity.

It’s quite alright to think that way. For years, I longed for "NBA Live 96" to be considered aerobic activity so I could explain away the hours I spent in front of my Sega Genesis as exercise.

But alas, we don’t always get what we want.

Poker players also probably want their game to achieve sports status so that they can be considered famous athletes. As the sports world shows — and this is quite a stretch for a sports writer to admit — people can be famous for the strangest, most illogical things.

Baseball players are famous if they hit a ball with a stick and run around in the dirt and grass. Basketball players are well-known for putting a ball in a hole. Football players gain their fame by either being the most violent or being the best at avoiding violence.

Poker players, therefore, just want to be famous for holding a lot of cards that look alike.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like such an outlandish idea. However, the following fallacy will show how this concession will never work.

If we allow poker players to gain fame for doing essentially nothing extraordinary, where will it end? Will construction workers be famous for hitting things with a hammer? Will teachers get recognition for standing in front of a group of kids and talking? Will the unborn be famous for kicking inside the womb? Or will seven-year-olds be well-known for consistently being the first one in the recess line? If that’s the case, then you are reading the words of a famous man.

As you can see, allowing poker to be a sport would do far more harm than it would good. But this should not deter anyone from playing. Poker has a lot of things going for it.

For instance, just the other night, I was playing with a group of friends. Armed with a general knowledge of how to play the game based largely on what I have seen from the movie Maverick, I held my own for the first hour of playing. Then, I became a little too engrossed in the homework that I had brought along. Then, I got a call from my girlfriend, which I chose to answer and proceeded to talk to her for half an hour. After that, I rejoined the game with a significantly smaller stack of chips. I won back what I had lost, folded a couple times, then bet everything I had and lost it all.

In the end, the game was rewarding. I was able to finish my homework, chat with my girlfriend, and not be the first one to run out of chips. Could I have done all those things while being chased by a middle linebacker, posted up by a seven-foot center or stared down by a flame-throwing reliever? Of course not.

That’s why I, for one, am glad that poker is not a sport.

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Title: The Runaround | Author: Kevan Lee | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-04-27 | Internal ID: 4502